Muschamp gathers Gators in Fort Lauderdale

Flying into Fort Lauderdale, FL for a Gator Gathering with the Broward Gator Club on Tuesday evening, Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp appeared anything but tired after a long day’s work. He gave a confident and passionate speech to nearly a thousand orange-and-blue-clad fans in attendance before energetically answering questions until it was time to depart. Below is a recap of some of the more newsworthy and interesting topics that Muschamp covered during the event:

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FOUR BITS: T. Burton, paintball, Beal, Lee

1 » Florida Gators sophomore athlete Trey Burton may be limited in the 2011 Orange & Blue Debut on Saturday after suffering an undisclosed injury during practice recently, according to the Palm Beach Post. With coaches and players being unavailable to the media from Tuesday evening until the conclusion of the game this weekend, no further information is currently known. Burton, who is/was expected to see snaps in the backfield behind redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey due to Florida’s injury problems, may put the Gators in an even bigger hole offensively during the public scrimmage.

2 » Head coach Will Muschamp and his staff surprised the team on Thursday by cancelling scheduled team meetings and weight lifting to take the entire group on a paintball trip. In addition to squaring off in paintball action, the team played cornhole and tug-of-war in what Muschamp referred to as “team building exercise[s].” Joining in on the fun was Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, who has been in Gainesville, FL all spring. The players all seemed to have a fantastic time at the event, and OGGOA has learned that the vibe was great on-site. Below is a team picture (courtesy of UF Sports Information’s Scott Carter) of the group after the festivities concluded.

3 » Though the difference is marginal, Gators incoming five-star guard Brad Beal was moved up from No. 7 to No. 4 on ESPNU‘s Top 100 rankings for basketball players in the 2011 recruiting cycle. Beal was named the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year this week and can next be seen participating in the Nike Hoops Summit on Saturday at 10 p.m. The game will air live on FOX Sports Network, so be sure to check your availability if planning to watch.

4 » Golden State Warriors center David Lee is on a bit of a hot streak right now, having scored 20 or more points in five of his last seven games with four double-doubles in that time. In six games since March 27, Lee is averaging 22.7 points and 13.5 board. Even more impressive is his last two performances, where he put up totals of 29 points/20 rebounds and 22 points/17 rebounds. Unfortunately for Lee, he won’t have much time to continue that streak as Golden State is 9.5 games out of playoff contention with only three more to play in the regular season.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Wild Card

With the 2010-11 NFL regular season having come to a close, a number of Florida Gators participated in Wild Card Weekend action during the NFL Playoffs. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of the playoffs.

DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Six tackles (five solo, two for loss), pass def.
RB DeSHAWN WYNN, New Orleans Saints: Played but did not record statistics.
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Two receptions for 18 yards (targets: 4)
DE BOBBY MCCRAY, Philadelphia Eagles: Played but did not record statistics.

NOTES
- Wynn was released by San Francisco and signed with New Orleans on Monday.
- McCray, a free agent this season, was signed by Philadelphia on Dec. 30.
- Both teams featuring former Gators lost this weekend in the wild card round.

ACTIVE FOR REMAINDER OF PLAYOFFS
Linebacker Mike Peterson (Atlanta Falcons); safety Major Wright (Chicago Bears); LB Jermaine Cunningham, tight end Aaron Hernandez, LB Brandon Spikes, running back Fred Taylor, defensive tackle Gerard Warren (New England Patriots); center Maurkice Pouncey (Pittsburgh Steelers)

REGULAR SEASON: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

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2011 Outback Bowl post-game news and notes

With the 2011 Outback Bowl now in the books and the Florida Gators set to undergo a major shake-up on the coaching staff and within the program, this is as good of a time as any to share some news and notes that OGGOA picked up over the past weekend.

SENIOR BOWL PARTICIPANTS

A source close to the players told OGGOA on Saturday that senior safety Ahmad Black, senior center/guard Mike Pouncey and redshirt senior offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert will all participate in the 2011 Under Armour Senior Bowl.

UPDATE: When rosters were officially announced on Sunday, punter/kicker Chas Henry has also accepted an invitation to play on Jan. 29.

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow – the No. 25 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft – and Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper both participated in the game last year.

JUNIORS DECLARING FOR THE DRAFT

Though nothing has been officially confirmed, most close to the program believe junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins will indeed declare for the 2011 NFL Draft. Jenkins, considered to be one of the top three defensive backs (cornerbacks and safeties) available, is projected as a first round pick even though he is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder (an injury he played with most of the season).

Also expected to declare is junior S Will Hill, who was projected to be a high pick before the season but has failed to live up to the expectations of both analysts and fans. ESPN grades Hill out as a 68 in its “draftable defensive backs” projections, eight points below Black (76) and 24 under Jenkins (92). In addition to his on-the-field problems, Hill is believed to have a poor attitude off the field and has been disciplined numerous times this past season. People he has spoken with personally have been told he will not be returning to Florida for his senior year.

WALKING OFF THE FIELD BEFORE CELEBRATING

Though a number of the Gators’ injured players – including those who were hurt during the game – remained on the field to celebrate after Florida’s 37-24 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions, a few healthy players ran directly into the locker room instead. Hill, redshirt senior wide receivers Carl Moore and Justin Williams and redshirt freshman WR Andre Debose all hurried off the field. Though Hill is likely to declare for the draft and both Moore and Williams are leaving/graduating, Debose’s departure was curious.

Checking in on Debose, OGGOA has learned that he has been quite disappointed with his time at UF thus far, a feeling that is not surprising considering he missed his first season due to injury and was only used sparingly in 2010 as a kick returner even though he showed explosive ability and the Gators struggled offensively. A source close to the team told us that Debose does not practice nearly as hard as the other young receivers and truly does not have a full grasp of the playbook, something head coach Urban Meyer noted early in the season. Not to make a mountain out of a mole hill – Debose simply could have been exhausted or sick or feeling down after being benched due to muffing two kickoffs – his exit from the field so suddenly is worth noting.

With a new coaching staff coming in and the ability to get a fresh start with an offensive coordinator and position coach, Debose may be getting exactly what he needs.

TWO OTHER CURRENT COACHES ARE GONE

In addition to offensive coordinator Steve Addazio and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin moving on, the Palm Beach Post has confirmed that co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Chuck Heater (surprisingly) and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni (not surprisingly) will not be retained. “I will not be back next year,” Heater told the paper. With reports that Florida has hired former player Aubrey Hill as their new WR coach, Azzanni’s departure is not as much of a shock as Heater’s.

QUARTERBACKING YOUR 2011 GATORS IS…

Perhaps the most important position on the field – quarterback – is the Gators biggest question from a personnel perspective going into next season. Though redshirt freshman QB Jordan Reed said he was perfectly fine with moving to tight end to start the season, he has showed some ability behind center and may hope to get that opportunity in a spread offense elsewhere. Redshirt junior QB John Brantley, who has publicly acknowledged he is considering transferring, will have a pro-style offense in place at Florida should he choose to stay. Their decisions could be independent or related depending what Muschamp has to say and what Brantley’s family helps him decide.

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Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

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FOUR BITS: Ingram, Noah, James, Harvin

1 » ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen reported Thursday that former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram has returned to the Philadelphia Eagles – the team that drafted him in 2009 and cut him earlier this year – as a member of the practice squad. Ingram was expected to make an impact for the Eagles this season but was limited once again with a knee injury that forced him to miss a lot of training camp. He hopes to earn his way back on the team through the practice squad but could theoretically be signed off of it by another organization at any time.

2 » OGGOA had some choice words about Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett on our Twitter account last week. It seems Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah somewhat agrees with our sentiments as he called out Garnett on the radio on Wednesday. “Kevin Garnett will not – will not – get a Christmas gift from me,” Noah said jokingly. “I don’t like him. He’s a very mean guy. Where’s the love? None at all. Ugly, too. I had his poster in my room. I used to wear his jersey. And the truth is, my rookie year, I was in admiration of the guy and he kind of shut me down. And he was very mean to me my rookie year. And he’s only mean to the young guys and the [European players] for some reason. I don’t know why, but that’s who he doesn’t like. He’s not nice. I talk a lot of trash out there, but c’mon, be a little sensitive. Be sweet.” Though Noah says a lot of things tongue-in-cheek and likes to joke around, he does consider Garnett a “dirty player” who “is who he is.”

3 » According to the Indianapolis Star, former Gators wide receiver/kick returner Brandon James has been promoted from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to their active roster effective immediately. James will (at least temporarily) fill WR Austin Collie’s roster spot while he recovers from a concussion sustained last weekend. Though he may not see the field as a receiver unless one of the Colts’ current starters gets injured, James may be able to see the field as soon as Sunday as the team’s kick returner. Keep your eyes peeled on Indianapolis’ game this weekend and look for a 5’7”, 170 lb. speed demon – especially on special teams.

4 » Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin missed practice yesterday after coming down with another migraine headache. Harvin, who dealt with severe bouts in the offseason but was able to get things under control after meeting with doctors and learning that he suffered from sleep apnea, is still expected to play this weekend. He is still recovering from an injured ankle but that did not stop him from posting a career-high 126 receiving yards last week while limping around.

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Former Gators McDonald, Cooper shine Sunday

Though OGGOA will still be posting our Florida Gators in the NFL week seven recap on Monday, we wanted to take a moment to showcase the performances of two players in particular who made big plays for their respective teams on Sunday.

» San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald with a pick-six:

» Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper brought in a great 43-yard reception. He also scored his first career NFL touchdown and was taught how with a Gator Chomp to celebrate by teammate running back LeSean McCoy:

Special thanks to OGGOA Twitter follower John C. for the final video.

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